You do not have to give long speeches like Démosthenés, Fidel Castro or Winston Churchill; you can sometimes influence things to your benefit with just elementary knowledge of elocution. To change a point of view, the direction of the wind, that´s what matters. And it is also true for climbing.
If you wonder why you should devote some of your precious time, which is primarily designated to training, to improving your verbal skills, or if you want some tips for a watertight excuse which will turn an unsuccessful attempt into your own triumph and you will consequently receive admiration from friends, then keep on reading!
Why excuses in the first place?
Do you think your friends will look down on you only because you can’t climb a route which matches your potential? You are right. That’s exactly what they will do.
Look, you can make a detailed and thorough training plan, keep on jumping on a campus board until you are dull, go on turning 50 step rounds on a boulder wall, measure your intervals and even keep records of them in your notebook. Eventually, you will get over that project… whatever.
But making out excuses in defence of your climbing failures – that is an intellectual activity. It doesn’t hurt. You don´t sweat or get exhausted. It is more fun than that boring training routine. Your body doesn’t get overloaded with that one-sided strain. You let your forearms rest. And there is even more to it. In ancient Greece it was called “kalokagathia” – the physical and mental balance. You make progress in all aspects. You grow bigger and stronger.
Take a look at the ranking of 8a climbers. Any gumbie who can´t put on climbing shoes properly is capable of climbing the French 8a. You wouldn’t want to compare yourself to anybody who doesn’t know how to tie their shoelaces properly. It’s important that people will see you as the most reputable hardman of the area even though you didn’t reach the abseil ring – that entails a bit of talent as well as experience. What are the do’s and don’ts?
“I AM WEAK!”
No way, forget this! When I come to the crag everybody complains how weak they are or they can´t reach that far. That is sooooo old and hackneyed. Frankly, it is a bit tiring to listen to this all the time. I feel there is a lot of invention and creativity missing. An ideal excuse is the one that nobody can see through. It must be easily believable and original. Don´t worry man, there is no secret to it. There are only 13 basic rules to be respected. 13 simple items to be filled with inspiration.
When your fingers start getting loose it is too late for making up excuses. It is advisable to have some ready before you start climbing.
You get up in the morning and say: “Well guys, I didn’t sleep at all. If I can climb something today it will be like a miracle.”
You approach the rock, look at your line and say something like: “Oh my, it looks quite damp up there, huh?“ Before a serious attempt for an RP you can just throw in: “I’ll just step through it and hang up the quickdraws.“ Right! And when you let that little ledge go because you are out of gas or your perseverance is low, you can easily pick up the threads of the previous comment.
What also works well is: “One guy broke his back when we were last climbing in Jura.” Simply – make the atmosphere of no good day or condition and if by any chance your climbing works well, your performance will be even more highly regarded.
Any somatotype can become a handicap in certain conditions. There are a whole lot of possibilities because each of us is built differently, each of us is an original.
“I am too short, the foothold does not fit and the holds too far.“
“I am too tall, that overhang is too cramped.“
“The first climber was tall and reached over the crux easily.“
“The first climber was short, I can´t arrange my body there.”
“My fingers are too thick for those little holes.”
“My hands are too big for these holds.”
“My hands are too small for that crack.”
“I am too heavy.”
“My legs are too heavy.”
“I am too fat.”
“My hair is too long.”
“I am too strong for this route, that´s why I can´t arrange myself properly.”
Crowds focus on numbers these days. The higher difficulty you mention in your excuse the more lenient people will be with you. A hardman who “usually climbs” the 9´s can’t be easily argued with over his inability to turn his foot like a cat but instead he goes training on the campus board like a clumsy body builder.
A climber who usually does 7´s cut-and-dried can´t fall on a 6 and admit it. He must be like: “Hey, I really burnt myself out on an 8+ this morning. Otherwise I would have done it easily.”
Can’t you climb through an 8? “You know, to be frank, it seemed like a 9 to me. A fair one.”
You fall on the top part of a 9? You must say: “I had overlooked a really good hold from the bottom and made it a 10- for myself.”
Or as the case may be: ”My program was too difficult today – all 10´s.”
You should load some responsibility for your failure onto somebody else’s shoulders.
While clipping the quickdraws you can pull the rope sharply and then blame the belayer for not paying out the rope, which was the reason for your RP failure because you lost the rest of your energy and had to sit down.
Or you can lay the blame on the authors of the route – for instance if you don´t know how to place a sling on sandstone and you are scared to climb all the way up to the ring without it. You can say: “The first ascent climber was showing off there.”
When you are trying to avoid a difficult part by climbing a bit off the route and you are feeling nervous about the harmless swing, you can say:
“The first ascender put that bolt in stupidly.”
“The author of the guidebook presented some wrong beta.”
“I can’t concentrate, somebody´s staring at me.”
“Someone put too much chalk on the hold. It’s too slippery!”
You can always insinuate that the character of the route doesn’t fit you. Or that you are focusing on a different skill in your training.
You fall on a boulder route because you can’t grasp the holds any longer: “I am training persistence now.”
You burn out and fall on a route that requires persistence: “I’m in a period of strength building, you know.”
You can combine the ideas as you please, make sure you read some books about training periods to have at least some idea of what you’re saying.
“I prefer classic routes.”
“This is a girls style of climbing.”
“This route is not for girls.”
“I can’t stand crimps, holes, cracks, slopers… (simply mention the type you are hanging on).”
“This does not fit my style.”
You didn’t climb two days before the attempt? “I am not warmed up.”
You climbed a bit two days before the attempt? “I am tired.”
“I have been climbing for the fourth day in a row today.”
“I am not climbing at all these days.”
“It is too wet. I keep sliding off it.”
“It is too cold, I can’t feel my fingers.”
“I feel too hot, my fingers keep sliding off the holds.”
“The sun was blinding me.”
“The rock was sweating.”
“The sand was too dry and greasy.”
“There was incredible air humidity.”
Whatever the manufacturers do to improve the equipment with innovations and upgrades, it is still not good enough.
“The chalk does not work.”
“My friend´s quickdraws are too heavy. I would have made it with mine for sure.”
“The rope is too thin. I didn’t feel like falling onto it.”
“My rope is old and thick. I didn’t feel like falling onto it.”
“The rope is too heavy. It is pulling me down.”
You don´t know how to stand on a rounded foothold near your knee? And what about your climbing boots? Are they new? They can’t be definitely broken in yet.
Or they don´t look very new? They are probably too soft and they will be definitely turning on your foot.
It can be a painful grater or something could have been broken. Limestone can be very slippery, sandstone is greasy. Flintstone can be confusing. I recommend finding out what kind of material you are climbing on, especially if you are a beginner, to reap exactly what you sow.
“The rounded holds are too round.”
“The crimpers are too sharp and painful.”
“There was a missing hold on the indoor wall.”
“The hold has turned down, it has become a sloper.”
“All the holds have tilted down.”
“The overhang was rotten.”
“The feet were slippery.”
“I am used to climbing on different material.”
Everybody accepts this well. You must present your story as a life threatening experience and soon a bunch of sensation-seeking lonely “groupies” will show up in the pub.
“I rather let the hold go because my tendon was really extended. It could have snapped.”
“The bolt looked rusty, I didn’t feel like falling onto it.”
“The route was totally insane.”
“I didn’t trust the belayer.”
“I didn’t feel safe with the rope.”
“I saw some loose rocks which I didn’t want to touch.”
Instead of saying: “I was afraid, I was scared,” use rather: “It was dangerous.”
You can always point out there was a moment of bad luck. It belongs to any sport and anybody can encounter it from time to time.
“Jeez, I fell from the last difficult step.”
“And I didn’t even feel pumped.”
“I got over the crux but I fell on the easy section.”
“I overlooked the key hold.”
“I would have made it on-sight if I had grabbed the next hold.”
“I would have made it RP, no problem, but I didn’t fancy climbing the 30 metres one more time because of one single step.”
You feel you are running out of gas and you don´t wanna fight? Make a vigorous step out of the line of the route: “Aren´t I unlucky? I was almost reaching the on-sight but somehow I got diverted on the easy section.”
Damp rounded holds on a windy southern wall in the middle of summer?
You are 7 feet tall and you are going mad that you can´t reach the hold? You won’t trick anybody like that.
You are trying to climb a 6? Stop yelling around there is a dyno ending in a one-finger hold. You can feed the passersby with this only.
Also be careful about colourful storytelling of a frightening runout on a route where there are bolts every 4 feet.
In case you were complaining about your hot-bloodedness that makes you slide down from holds, you have to walk around the crowded parking place later in the cool fall evening wearing just shorts and flip-flops. You know, to make people see how things are.
Do you blame the cold for your failure? If you sit down into a bolt because you are afraid of the terrifying 10-foot runout above it, do not forget to immediately start warming up your fingers in your armpits or at least give them intensive breathing.
You are all right but you are thinking of “using” the injured knuckle? Start taping it. What also looks good is a little bit of ouching after a fall or shaking your hand in the air to show that it hurts.
Do you wanna make people think that you are too busy at school to find time for climbing? Make sure you pack a course book into the backpack with your climbing stuff.
“Do you blame the cold for your failure? Do not forget to immediately start warming up your fingers and give them intensive breathing.”
Learn from others. At the crag and on the wall there are lots of people who could make their living out of this.
There are numerous combinations of how to get away with your excuses and keep your slate clean. So, let me not hear the things like: “I am too weak!” or “I can´t reach it!” any more.
Loves the pulse of metropolis. Amazed by technical progress… Watches the latest fashion. Never misses any cultural event or social intercourse. Reads newspaper daily, follows financial market. (smiling)
“Climbing is not about the grades and life is not about the money.”
He loves to write about inspiring people.
Addicted to situations when he does not care about the time – in the mountains or sandstone crags.